Abstinence makes the brain go softer

I was originally going to fisk the speech Nadine Dorries gave in introducing her ten minute rule bill on the mandatory teaching of abstinence to 13-16 year old girls, but much of what needs to be said can be readily covered using her pseudo-blog post on the same subject:

Today I presented a 10 minute rule bill to the House regarding the teaching of abstinence to 13 – 16 yr aged girls in school.

The thrust was that girls as young as seven are taught about intercourse, safe sex, how to apply a condom on a banana, where to get condoms, how to detect an STI and that they don’t need to tell their parents anything.

I believe that is tantamount to encouragement and that we have the balance wrong.

Never mind getting the balance wrong, Dorries got her "facts" wrong (as usual), putting her remarks firmly into the 100% fiction category.

To be absolutely clear on this matter, once and for all, children as young as seven are not taught about intercourse, safe sex, condom use or STIs in schools. Dorries is playing the tired old tabloid trick of making false claims about the subject matter taught to seven year olds based on the contents of the full PSHE and SRE (sex and relationships education) curriculum, which runs of early years education (3-4 years) right through to the end of secondary education (year 11, 15-16 years), presenting children and young people with age appropriate information at each key stage and year of the curriculum.

Contrary to everything Dorries has claimed today, a typical PSHE/SRE curriculum for year three children (7 years) covers the following topics:

  • Self esteem
  • Challenging gender stereotypes
  • Differences: Male and Female
  • Family differences
  • Decision making
  • Safety

You’ll note, straight away, that there’s a very marked lack of shagging, condoms or information on STIs in there – reproduction typically doesn’t enter the picture until year 6 (10-11 years) while contraception fails to enter the frame at all until year 8 (12-13 years) and its only in year 9 (13-14 years) that the curriculum covers contraceptive methods and STIs. – all information taken from SRE core curriculum for London, published by Young London Matters.

Staying on the subject of fiction, Richard Bartholomew has kindly tackled the statistics cited by Dorries – and attributed to Dame Joan Bakewell – in her speech in relation to the alleged sexual content of prime-time television:

Dame Joan [Bakewell] said that our society is saturated in sex: a typical prime-time hour on TV contains 2.6 references to intercourse, 1.2 references to prostitution and rape, and 4.7 sexual innuendoes.

Unfortunately, as Richard notes, Dame Joan Bakewell said nothing of the sort:

The statistics are actually a boilerplate talking-point which has been doing the rounds on Christian websites for years, sometimes attributed to a “Florida State University study”. One example of their use is the 1993 book by Bill Hybels and Rob Wilkins, entitled Tender Love: God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy. According to them:

According to one study, a typical network prime-time hour contains an average of 1.6 references to intercourse, 1.2 references to prostitution and rape, 4.7 sexual innuendoes, 1.8 kisses, and 1.0 suggestive gestures.

Again, we have an example of Dorries sourcing her information from the heartlands of the American Taliban although, as Richard goes on to point out in a footnote, the original source of these claims may be 1987 study conducted for Planned Parenthood, the US equivalent of our own Family Planning Association, which was reported in the New York Times in 1988.

If Richard is correct – and I suspect he might well be – Dorries’ statistics are more than 20 years out of date and relate to prime-time television in the United States and are of no relevance to this current debate, not least because, unlike the UK, prime-time on US networks is defined as 8pm-11pm (Eastern/Pacific Standard Time) and 7pm-10pm (Central/Mountain), which means that two of the three prime-time hours in the two most populous and important US time zones fall after the UK’s 9pm watershed. In the US, prime-time viewing means the graphic CSI franchise – in the UK it means the One Show.

As usual, if you’re looking for a fact free environment, then Dorries’ pseudo-blog is the place to go.